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Virtual Reality Helping People With Low Vision

Virtual reality (VR) is managing to open whole new avenues to researchers in various fields of study alongside its commercial applications of videogames and entertainment. One such field of use is how VR can help people who suffer with low vision.

Low vision is defined as a chronic, disabling visual impairment that can’t be corrected with eyeglasses or surgery. People who suffer with low vision, which is caused by macular degeneration, usually have to use various glasses, magnifiers and other gadgets depending on the situation.

Frank Werblin, a professor of neuroscience at UC Berkeley was recently interviewed by the Los Angeles Times regarding at new piece of software called Visionize. The software is combined with a smartphone and  a VR head-mounted display (HMD) to help magnify the users surroundings. Werblin said about the technology: “Traditional treatments use magnification, but they magnify everything. Most people with low vision experience blurriness only in the centre of their eye, he said, and don’t need the whole-eye magnification that existing treatments offer.”

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“If you wear a telescope, then you lose peripheral vision,” he said. “So our challenge was to find a way for people to see the world in context, but to create a kind of telescope in the middle of that view.”

The other benefit to using current technology like smartphones and Samsung Gear VR HMD’s is that they are easily and cheaply available, as previous projects have been trialled that cost thousands of dollars to make.

Trials for Visionize are on going but as manufacturers compete to improve their devices for the commercial market, researchers like Werblin will benefit from those technological advances.

VRFocus will continue to follow all the latest announcements regarding VR news.